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Do You Really Need to Print an Annual Report?

I’ve noticed some nonprofits have opted to stop printing an annual report and mailing it to their donors to save the expense of postage and printing costs.

That’s sort of like saying, “Thanks for your gift, but we don’t care, and we are not going to show you how your gift helped us do our work.”  An annual report doesn’t have to be very fancy or expensive, and you can segment your donor base so that higher level donors receive the print version and others receive it as a link in an email that takes them back to the organizational web site to read the PDF version.

Why is this so important? Because an annual report mailing should be a part of your overall donor retention strategy. Keeping your donors informed helps them feel that their continuing support makes a difference – and you want them to FEEL they are making a difference every time they send you a gift.

What is the key to creating an annual report that is worth the effort?

– Fewer pages.  People do four things when they get an annual report in the mail:

1) Look at the cover to see if it s worth opening (does it look like something you’d want to read?),

2) Look at photos with captions for heart-tugging stories of impact,

3) Glance at the financials pie chart to see how funds are spent, and

4) Flip to the back to find THEIR OWN NAME LISTED AS A DONOR.

– Keeping the above in mind, it is very easy to write content that is compelling and shows gratitude and impact.  They may not even read the letter from your board chair or executive director, or the 5 or 6 pages you might include that describes your programs!  

If your typical high level donor is older, I would venture to bet that if you sent the annual report with a handwritten letter of gratitude and a return envelope, you could easily garner another gift.

To quote one of my favorite fundraisers, Claire Axelrad of Clarification.com-

“Too often, charities (well, the people in them) don’t think very highly of their donors. They ascribe all sorts of selfish motives to donors’ giving. Have you ever heard:

  • They just want their name in lights
  • They’re just a social climber
  • They just want to assuage their conscience
  • They were born with a silver spoon; they don’t understand the value of money
  • It’s easy for them; it’s not really a sacrifice or noble act
  • They just want to look good to their friends

Sure, maybe some of this happens. But it’s a very shallow, mean-spirited way of looking at donors. I’ve never met a donor where this was all that motivated their giving. Human drives are much more complex.”  To read Claire’s full blog post on the psychology of donor retention, click here

Being a donor-centered nonprofit means putting yourself in the place of the donor.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!